IT Policies

10 ways to convince your staff to use the help desk


Help desks should constantly strive to improve their methods of client interaction. Users must feel comfortable with the help desk and know they will receive prompt, courteous, and effective support. Here are 10 practices your help desk can use to strengthen user relations and improve client utilization.

This information, which originally appeared as "Talking Shop: Convince users to utilize the help desk," is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Be proactive

Don't wait for a problem to occur before you meet the users -- get out there and introduce yourself and the team. In touring the building, you may find ways to improve the way users work. You may be able to show them easier ways to do their jobs, shortcuts, better software, and so on.

#2: Have a help desk open house

This get-together is a great way of receiving feedback on your work and learning exactly what the users want. Everything you teach the user is one fewer problem log later. It also shows the user that you want to improve communications, breaking down that "us and them" atmosphere.

#3: Make contacts in each department of the company

Forge links with the power users and authorize them to handle routine problems. When necessary, these contacts can report more serious issues and training deficiencies relevant to their departments.

#4: Publish a monthly newsletter

You can offer hints and tips related to the most commonly asked questions, as well as getting your face known around the company.

#5: Set up an intranet page for the help desk

Your page could have a short biographical piece on each team member, detailing hobbies, interests, and special areas of expertise, as well as an online form for reporting problems during off hours.

#6: Tag every piece of supported equipment

While you are designing the tags, why not include the help desk number? You could also include useful information like reminding users to make a note of any error messages, to call from a phone that is adjacent to the equipment, to have the equipment running when they call -- all those annoying things that often waste time.

#7: Publicize the help desk

Get some posters up that show the hours of operation, what you can help with, and what the help desk's phone number is. You would be amazed how many people do not know the help desk number and call via the switchboard.

#8: Send every user a laminated "help desk tips" card

On one side, list the help desk's phone number, e-mail address, and hours of operation. On the other, print helpful tips, such as noting error messages, calling from the room where the equipment sits, and remembering what they were doing when the error occurred.

#9: Work yourself out of a job

Make your users the best trained, best supported, and most efficient in the world. In the highly unlikely event that you make the entire help desk redundant, your bonus and promotion package should be out of this world!

#10: Most important of all, enjoy yourself

Have a joke with your colleagues and, where appropriate, with the callers. Some help desks I have visited are so serious that you wonder whether it can be any fun at all to work there. When the users start to include you on their e-mail distribution lists for jokes, you know you have reached them in a way that means that true communication has been achieved.

12 comments
dhumphri
dhumphri

We designed a mouse pad with the help desk phone # and email address on it, then distributed them to all staff. also new workstations are dropped with a desktop background with same image we printed on the mouse pad.

tecaprio
tecaprio

Awesome ideas!!! We're working on number 5 next year.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The good ideas on this list: #1 - Be Proactive, but this will only work for the locations that have a help desk on site. #3 - This goes hand in hand with #1, but this time works very well with locations that don't have an on-site help staff. #4 - Monthly newsletter - this can be effective, but it requires the ability to write clearly and in a manner users find interesting. In other words, a technical writer. If effective, it may actually reduce help desk calls if users can remember the solutions offered in the newsletter. #6 - Tag equipment with help desk number. Okay, this is so obvious I should have thought of it long ago. I'll be implementing this soon. Weak ideas: #2 - Open house. What's to see? #5 - Intranet site - Had one for years. How do you get the users to use it? #7, 8, - I'll come back to #7 - Publicity, but posters won't make people pick up the phone, cards will just get lost. Warm fuzzy statements with no practical application: #9, 10. The only thing worse than these was another recent column suggesting using the help desk as some kind of concierge service to escort guests, contact Facilities / Maintenance, etc. Back to #7 - Publicity - We've long had a system that e-mails a feedback form to randomly selected users. We've decided to adapt it to the best method of encouraging help desk use we could come up with. Randomly selected cases will receive a $25 gift card to Wal-Mart.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I think every one of those has been done where I have worked previously and none of it helped until the company finally had the helpdesk stop answering questions that should be easy to find. Although this brings up different problems. Most people dont want to be saavy enough to do more than turn on their system and get through the day. As long as it worked the way it did yesterday, then there is nothing more to think about. And yes, more than 1 company that I have worked for has taken on a policy to inform users of where to look for common issues and stopped answering those questions at the helpdesk. The company I currently work for took it farther. If it is 3rd party and not sponsored by the company, they will hang up on you. If it is 3rd party and company sponsored (obtained) then they will tell you to look in the help files or at the companies website FAQ before hanging up on you. Since it is a minimum of 40 min. to get someone on the line already, this is a very annoying practice. Especially for legit problems that may sound similar to something that might be in a help file but isnt. They dont even wait long enough to let you say I already did that. So, problems while going through the list. #1 many techs do not have the time to go around all over and look for areas to improve. And if they did, they might not have the funding to upgrade apps, or the knowledge of how many of the specific apps work. This is better handled by a project manager. #2 This might be good except that in small companies, everyone knows the helpdesk people. In larger companies the helpdesk is several thousand miles away, not good for a quick get together. #3 This can work well in smaller environments, but might be better suited to deskside support than helpdesk. This is often already practiced without even trying, it is the nature of the beast in many places. But I do agree with the concept and execution. It works well often, unless you get someone playing the role who just thinks that they can, and screws things up worse. #4 doing a monthly newsletter can be a task, especially for most over-worked IT folk. Another way is to do holiday newsletters, it puts less pressuer on getting it done every month, and more relevant items are often listed. If you give tips out too often (especially if they are posted on an intranet site already) people will just delete them more and more often. Doing 5/year or so is a better idea. #5 Yes, Yes, Yes -- and make it easy to navigate for most common problems. I have seen these where even I would pull my hair out trying to find something. Organize it well, make it quick and easy to find things and people will use it. Also important would be a feedback location on said site, and a place for the end users to post questions (non-critical) that support can review when their main tasks are completed. #6 This is more of an asset management. If the helpdesk is doing this then yes, but as stated previously, many companies do not have an on-site helpdesk and have someone else in charge of assett management. #7 Agree BUT also have said posters/fliers have the web address of the easy to use website as a first stop. #8 This will never work. People will lose them, tell you they never got them, and come up with a thousand excuses. Having this information on the Intranet site using the posters/flyers with the helpdesk # and link would be more effective and less costly. #9 yeah right. Lets say it came to that, do you really think most companies would give you a huge severence and bonus, or just try to off you with as little as possible??? However, that should be a goal always, but the end users will never get that much into IT to do it all themselves. There are a lot of things involved. #10 Yes, striving for less work and less 'irritating' calls will do a lot for helping to enjoy yourself with new tasks.. Let me add #11 Put the helpdesk and deskside away from the end users a bit, whether it is in a seperate building or just in a locked/restricted access area. This will give much less room for walk-ups if you want them to learn to do things themselves.

hcetrepus
hcetrepus

Perhaps it is because I work in a smaller environment than the author has worked in, but all of this sounds very "pie in the sky". From my experience there are very few end users who want training. What the vast majority expect is our dept.(me) to come running and fix the problem the second it occurs, whether or not they could troubleshoot the issue themselves. Just this past week I was privy to a conversation that went like this: User: "Those tech people, expecting me to back-up my own stuff", why can't one of them come around once a month and do it for us?!" The same user suggested just today, as I was rolling out her new PC, that I go find a different desk to place this on. Like we have desks stockpiled in the IT dept in all shapes and sizes that WE should be able to choose from. Then appeared put off when it was suggested she contact the dept that would be inventorying the furniture to her. I can understand the reasoning behind "touring the work areas", but as for my dept. we wouldn't get very far. It's hard enough to sneak into the restroom without being stopped about an issue, whethere work related or not. (I was actually stooped by a coworker who wanted to discuss their home router situation in the restroom), much less walk around with a "sucker" sign on my forehead asking for people opinions on what I could do to make their life easier. NOW, if you want to double my staff, maybe we can talk about such things. Until then, they need to submit a troubleticket and pateintly wait their turn. We do have a tech tips page on our intranet, which I submit many hints, tips, and tricks to. Each time this is updated, a link is sent out to everyone via email notifying them of this. They don't read it - the types of calls we get prove it. Lastly, there are a couple of folks peppered throughout the workplace who (think they are) savvy enough to help out other users on some seemingly menial tasks. This has proven helpful ocassionally, but more times than not, I not only have to fix the original issue, but the now more complicated ones resulting from the "tech savvy" indivudual trying to "help" I am sorry if this has come out so negative, but it's been very frustrating the past several weeks, and reading something so touchy feely wasn't the thing to inspire me. Also, the word "proactive" has become finger nails on a chalk board to me. The term is used in reference to our department as though we should be psychic, and prevent things from happening. Almost as to suggest a fire department drive around in their trucks just waiting for a fire to happen.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

or at least the spoof of Consumer Whore cups/t-shirts!!!

melanieellsworth
melanieellsworth

To add to the last reply on adding #11...you also want to ensure that your local on-site desktop support folks that work the tier 2 support don't do "drive bys" where they don't require customers to call the help desk FIRST. If the customers know they can grab someone on the fly, why call the help desk in the first place? It's a hard culture to change once that's the expectation, and then you are focusing on negative customer feedback. The main point is to offer them great service, try to be proactive at all times, and thank them for calling when they do...

reisen55
reisen55

Users will readily call a help desk IF, AND I REPEAT, IF it truly can help them. I have seen conditions where it fails totally. Outsourcing: a call to Bangalore is usually a waste of time and users just give up. Help Desk Ignored by Management: I spent time at a marvelous, high end automobile company in Montvale, NJ at a helpdesk that was left on it's own when it came to internal software and changes thereto. We had to make it on our own, and the result was less than spectacular results. Management did not care and was ONLY interested in selling cars. Period.

Robert.Lindsey
Robert.Lindsey

I agree that most of the suggestions are unrealistic and that the whole tone is so Pollyanna-ish that it is laughable. Anyone in the real world who tried some of these would very quickly get called on the carpet for wasting time and resources, as well as opening themselves up to accusations by other departments that we clearly had too much time on our hands and too large a staff and budget. I do not agree with hcetrepus' apology for pointing out the reality of the situation. "The Emperor has no clothes" is not an opinion voiced out of frustration, but only a statement of fact. A much more contructive (and politically viable) strategy to improve Help Desk operations is to require users to sign-off on completed tickets and rate the quality of work performed. Less than satisfactory responses should get a rigorous follow-up. This has several benefits: 1) it demonstrates your commitment to quality service to the user and to management, 2) it identifies and documents the whiners and slackers who abuse the system and waste your resources, and 3) users will quickly come to understand that if they bad-mouth the Help Desk, then you are going to document their attempts at spreading disaffection - something that will make most of them stop and think.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

There isn't a Starbucks for 25 miles, and in the southeastern U.S, EVERYBODY goes to Wally-World. We talked about cups and T-shirts, but gift cards take up less space to store, one size fits all, and we agreed the last thing anybody needed was another coffee cup with the company logo. Besides, our factory workers aren't allowed to have food or drink in the manufacturing areas, so the coffee cups are out.

V.H. Scarpacci
V.H. Scarpacci

OK, all whining aside, I started in user support in 1983 and this article nails what MUST be done to be successful and efficient at the help desk. I have worked for tech and non-tech companies. If you are just sitting at your workstation and answering the phone and talking people through a problem you are just perpetuating the problem. If you want to be efficient you will get out of the office and sit with a user for a while. Granted that techies are easier to get the point to than fuzzies, but if you don't spend some time teaching the simple things to your users they will do one of two things. Being proactive and training users is just an enjoyable part of the job. 1: Will stop calling the helpdesk. This sound ideal at first, but six months down the line you will get a call from their supervisor complaining that this user has had a problem for the last four months and nothing has been done about it. 2: They will call every other day and this will take you away from the real problems that need to be taken care of. The items 4, 6, 7 & 8 all deal with making the I. T. Department known to the users. This not only let your users know how to contact the help desk, but lets them know that the "help desk" is friendly (not intimidating) and actually helpful. Without really being helpful your job may as well be shopped out to Bangalore. This is what makes your job 'indispensible' to your employer. As for #9 the title should have been 'Work your way into a job'. Thee ideal goal of the I.T. Department is for us ultimately to be invisible. The better we do our job the less we will be noticed. This is why you will need items 4, 6, 7, & 8. Really what is this all about? Well if you can't enjoy your job and be helpful at the help desk, Find another job. It will make you and your supervisor much happier.